Few things are more annoying than a leaky faucet. It drips all day long, no matter how tight you shut the valves. However, like many maintenances around the house, fixing a leaky faucet falls well within the DIY category. Instead of paying a couple of hundred bucks on a plumbing service, you can try and fix the leak yourself for a fraction of the cost.
Like all other fixtures, faucets wear out over time; the continual flow of water can corrode, rub off, and damage the pieces. Here are some instructions and know-howes on fixing the typical leaky faucet.
Do I need to replace my faucet?
Unless your faucet is old, there’s no need for a total replacement. Faucet parts like washers, O’rings, cartridges, disks, etc., are readily available. With a simple, correct replacement, you can more than double or triple your faucet’s life span before it needs to go.
How to fix a leaky double-handle faucet
1) Find the leak’s source
To fix a leaky double-handle faucet, you need to find the source of the leakage. Leaks are caused when a joint in the tap can’t seal as it’s supposed to, either because it is damaged or worn out over time. It would help if you took the handle(s) apart to access and replace the pieces. To determine which side is causing the leak, turn off the cold and hot shutoff valves one at a time and check if the leak stops. The shutoff valves are usually beneath the sink and inside the cabinet. Turn off the main water supply if you don’t find the valves. Finally, turn on the handles to empty the remaining water inside the faucet.
2) Make sure you can find your way back
Before taking anything apart, get a rag and lay it on top of the drain. The last thing you want is to lose a small screw down the pipes. Like any other apparatus, pay attention to where each piece belongs. You can do this by recording yourself while taking the faucet apart. Another option would be to place every detail in order as you take them apart. This will give you a good enough idea of what goes first and what goes after. To be extra handy, when you’re taking something apart, try to form the good habit of putting all small pieces in a small container. This will save you a lot of potential headaches.
3) Take the off handle.
Many faucets have a cap that covers the top. These caps usually indicate the colors or letters for hot and cold water. Pry off the button to access the screw that’s holding the handle. Turn the screw counterclockwise to free the handle. Try to be careful here since these screws are usually soft and brass. If your handle has an Allen-type screw on it, simply removing it will make the handle come off.
After the handle is off, depending on your faucet, you’ll be able to see the compression disc or the cartridge. Cartridges allow and prevent the flow of water. When you turn the handle open, the cartridge rotates and allows the water to flow from the pipe to the mixing chamber. It is then mixed with the water coming through the other cartridge (cold or hot) and poured out through the spout.
Before you remove the cartridge, check and make sure that the problem is not the cartridge being simply loose. If so, tightening it will solve the leak problem. If that’s not the case, go ahead and remove the cartridge and the O’ring. Pull out the cartridge by a careful and hard upward pull. Many faucets have a nut that tightens over the cartridges. If your cartridge has this nut, remove it with a wrench.
4) Replace the defective piece
If you notice the O’ring or washer at the bottom of the cartridge is worn out, replacing it should do the trick. Purchase the correct size O’ring or washer. Remove the old one and apply some plumber’s grease around it. Put the new washer and make sure it clicks in place.
In case of a damaged or corrupted cartridge, replace it entirely. The cartridge is damaged and needs to be removed and replaced in many cases. There might as well be as many cartridge models out there as there are faucets. So, in this case, bring the cartridge with you to the store if you want to buy a suitable replacement.
Please put the new cartridge in place and tighten the nut when you have it. Be careful not to overtighten. Then put the handle back on and attach the cap. When putting the faucet handle back on, angle it correctly. For instance, when you have screwed the cartridge shut, don’t put the hold on at an open angle. This way, the handle won’t move. To ensure the angle is right, screw in the cartridge shut and put the hold back on in the completely closed position.
5) Flush out the debris
After the defective piece has been replaced, open the shutoff valves and the faucet handles and let the water flow for a while. This will get rid of the debris inside the faucet. For this part, it’s best to remove the aerator (the piece that screws onto the head of the spout).
6) Do the clean-up
Why not make your faucet look nicer while you’re at it? Before you call it a day, pick up a tower and dip it into some white vinegar. Rub the towel against water spots on the faucet until shiny and brand new-looking.
How to fix a leaky single-handle faucet
A typical single-handle faucet uses a ceramic disc or a ball faucet to let the water flow. These types have washers at the seat that seal against either a ceramic disc or a ball valve.
Do the same drill of shutting off the valves and opening the handle with this type of faucet. Either replace the washers or replace the disc inside. To get a proper replacement, bring your old pieces with you.
Why is it essential to fix a leaky faucet?
A leaky faucet can go far beyond a simple inconvenience. Apart from the nuisance of hearing a drip all day long, a dripping faucet will quickly get worse. When water finds a loose seal to leak from, it expands the hole and leaks more each day. On top of that, if your leak goes down the drain and you don’t end up spending to fix the water damage to your cabinets, it will amp up the bills! The water waste from a continually leaking faucet will pile up and cost you hundreds of bucks each year.
A leaky faucet won’t fix itself, and it’s not to be ignored. If you don’t feel like DIYing it, it’s good to contact a professional. An experienced plumber, apart from doing a foolproof fix, will provide you with tips on how to improve your fixture’s lifetime.